Photo caption: Hannah Fried-Tanzer and Medha Marsten of Arena Stage thank the Friends of Southwest board for its contributions to Camp Arena Stage and the Voices of Now program.

Photo caption: Vyllorya Evans and Friends of Southwest board members look on as scholarship recipient Daniele Crutchfield describes her impressive university accomplishments.

The Friends of Southwest DC (FOS) annual meeting on the evening of March 20 showcased a range of community organizations working to make Southwest a better place. Leaders of six nonprofit organizations braved a snowstorm to attend the meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where they provided engaging descriptions of programs they undertook with help from FOS.

For the past two decades, FOS has provided small grants to advance educational, charitable, and community development projects in our quadrant of the city. President Coralie Farlee reported that in 2017 the organization raised more funds and distributed more grant money than ever before—more than $27,000 to eight different grantees. The funds were all contributed by neighbors, “real people, not corporations,” said Farlee, as she outlined the organization’s history and goals.

Two representatives of Arena Stage, Hannah Fried-Tanzer and Medha Marsten, described how a grant from FOS provided scholarships for two students from Jefferson Middle School Academy to attend Camp Arena Stage and another grant supported the theater’s Voices of Now program, in which Jefferson students have excelled.

Jay Shorter of STORM told how his organization’s field trip to Philadelphia, Pa., through a grant from FOS, opened new horizons for a group of Jefferson Academy students. The students, some of whom had never been so far from home, visited the Franklin Institute, the U.S. Mint, and several leading universities. In addition to the trip’s educational aspects, the motel lodgings offered some of the boys another first-time opportunity: swimming in an indoor pool.

Another grantee, EmmaUS, took a group of elementary students on a field trip to Pennsylvania’s Turkey Hill Experience, where the children learned how ice cream is made. There were lessons about cows and the industrial process, with a fringe benefit of plentiful free samples. Another trip was to Philadelphia’s Constitution Center, with an emphasis on U.S. history. Bus rides on both trips provided lessons on rules of the road, geography, and financial responsibility.

The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s Vyllorya Evans thanked FOS for providing college scholarships to Southwest students in 2017, as it has done each year since 1999. She played video clips of the three impressive scholarships recipients recounting their goals and achievements.

Bob Craycraft, executive director of Waterfront Village, explained how the village is using its grant to sponsor a series of wellness seminars, expanding opportunities for seniors. The village also successfully used its grant as a fundraising tool, by seeking matching funds.

Yet another grant went to the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School PTA to purchase several iPads equipped with science, technology, engineering, and math applications for pre-K children, programs that are under threat because of city budget cuts.

A common theme of the presentations was “we couldn’t have done it without you.” The evening highlighted how small contributions from neighbors can empower community groups to improve the lives of SW residents.

There are currently three vacancies on the FOS board. Neighbors interested in volunteering their time and effort by joining the board are encouraged to contact FriendsSWDC@yahoo.com. More information on FOS, including the Annual Report for 2017, is available on its website: FriendsofSWDC.org.

By: Peter Eicher

Vice President, Friends of Southwest DC

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